*** World War I -- Central Powers occupation of Serbia Belgrade

World War I: Occupied Serbia--Belgrade (1914-18)

Belgrade refugees
Figure 1.--We are not sure what to make of this photograph. The caption read, "War dog heroes in Pris: Serbian dog and his little master saved by a French aviator during the seige of Belgrade by the Austrians." The only problem here is that there was no seige of Belgrade in World War I. The Austrians and Germans took Belgrade in a 3-day offensive (October 1915). So we are unsure just what the story was. The boy may have been involved in the Serbian Army retreat to the sea. The photograoh is stamped July 6, 1916. By that time Belgrade had been occupied for nearly a year. Many French families fostered Serbian children during the War. We think once the Serbs reached Corfu and other Greek islands, French navel ships took many of the children safety, mostly to France. A reader writes, "The boy appears to be very well dressed. He also looks very strong and healthy as does the dog. This suggests that the photograph was taken some time after the the Serbian Army Great Retreat. Many boys who accompanied the soldiers perished in the long, gruling winter march and were in terrible condition when the Allied naval vessels reached them. Perhaps he was not involved in the march. It looks like he has been taken in by a French family and not turned over to an orphanage."

Belgrade was the capital of Serbia. It was at the time if World War I located in northern Serbia close to the Austro-Hungarian (Croatian) and Romanian border. It was the primary objective of the Austrian punishmebnt effort (July 1914). The seizure of Belgrade in the Austro-German offensive (October 1915) was not the first time during the that the Austrian troops had occupied the Serbian capital. The Austrians had begun a miliitary cmpaign to punish the Serbs even before World war I broke out. This was the result of the assasination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo which would ultimalely lead to World War I. Serbia proved a harder nut for the Austrians to crack than they had anticipated. The Austro-Hungarian Army was much larger and better equipped, but could not be fully committed because the Russians supported the Serbs and engaged the Austrians on the Eastern Front (Augist 1914). The Austrian managed to finally take Belgrade after several months of very hard fighting. (December 1, 1914). The Austrians set about punishment operations, reducing areas of the city to rubble. One of the most heavily targeted areas was Belgrade University, a center of nationalist senyiment and secret societies. An American journalist wrote, "The Austrians had made it their special target, for there had been the hotbed of pan-Serbian propaganda, and among the students that formed the secret society whose members murdered the Archduke Franz Ferdinand." [Reed] The Serbs counterattacked 2 weeks later and retook the city, captured 40,000 Austrian prisoners. We are not sure how POWs were treated in the early stages of the War. The front lines, however, remained close to the city. The Austrians and Serbs fought it out for much of 1915, but the Serbs held on to Belgrade. The Germans sent forces to support the Austrians and in a massive new offensive, took the city (October 9). Two days later the Bulgarians attacked in the south, making any Serbian countr-offensive impossible. Belgrade and Serbia would be occupied by the Central Powers until the end of the War.


Reed, John.


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Created: 9:38 AM 4/20/2011
Last updated: 5:44 AM 4/21/2011